February 29th, a date that only appears every four years (due to a “Leap Year” used in the Gregorian Calendar to align months in sync with annual events such as equinoxes and solstices), is officially designated as the birthdate of Superman by DC Comics.
If you’re not familiar with the mythos of Superman, that date may leave you scratching your head. I’ve covered this before, but thought I would do so again.
Superman officially appeared for the first time in Action Comics #1, cover dated June 1938 but released on the newsstands in April 1938. And he has always been portrayed as being 29 years old, as if preserved in amber since his debut. If we used that date as his “birthday” then Superman would be turning 115 years old this April.
But in the late 1960’s – early 1970’s (before his owners starting resetting his origin every few years) the powers that be at DC Comics came up with a rather strange way to explain why, 30 years after his debut, Superman still appeared to be a young man. Let’s place his birthdate on a date that only falls every four years, February 29th, so that he only “ages” a year every four years. Yeah, that’s the ticket!
And you know, for kids who were reading in the 1960’s that seemed like a VERY logical thing. Of course it completely ignores the fact that you still age during those four years, but to a kid who isn’t given to critical thinking (and most weren’t/aren’t), that explanation makes sense.
Today, Superman is still portrayed as being a young man, though one that is married and has a son. That has been accomplished by, as I mentioned above, resetting his origin every few years or splitting the older Superman versions into separate worlds or separate dimensions, etc.
But officially, February 29th is STILL Superman’s birthday, recognized as such around the world.
So Happy Birthday to the world’s greatest superhero, Superman!
P.S. Here’s one of my very favorite Superman books, collecting the “Whatever Happened to The Man of Tomorrow” storyline by Alan Moore that officially marks the end of the Silver Age Superman era, along with a couple of other classic Superman stories.